We pass ice walls, a glacier, the cascades of a frozen river, and numerous springs of hot and medicinal underground water. The mountaineer will also find lovely views over the surrounding countryside, looking down into fertile valleys and across to the Vilcanota Mountains. These snow covered ranges arc away to the east, the southeast, then the south, protecting the valley of Canchis. From these high mountains, cold waters whisper through totora swamps south to Lake Titicaca. Eager rapids plunge north into the tropical Inambari. And from the glacier-fed lakes of the Cancis valley, rich green waters feed the Vilcanota River and Cusco’s Sacred Valley. We may observe rare Andean wildlife in the high wilderness, such as vicuña, vizcacha, c ondors, flamingos, Andean geese, and ibises.
Day 01: Cusco-Tinqui
We take the bus for 100 km to the southeast from Cusco in the morning. The road passes north of Ausangate, and we leave the road a bit west of the mountain. We camp in Tinqui at 3,800. As we fall asleep the setting sun lights up the glacier on the NW face of Ausangate.
Day 2: Tinqui-Upis
We break camp and hike up to the Ausangate glacier. We set up camp alongside the Upis thermal springs, about 4 kilometres higher. We bathe in the hot springs and the cold Upismayo, which runs beside our camp.
Day 3: Upis-Pucacocha
We break camp and hike up to a pass at 4,500, which separates Ausangate proper to the east from a spur named Quellacocha to the west. In the afternoon we pass Lake Pucacocha, WSW of the summit and nestled among various minor peaks. The setting sun plays in cascades of coloured ice where we finally make camp.
Day 4: Pucacocha-Chilcapinaya
We continue walking among high-altitude lakes in the valley immediately south of Ausangate, which are unnaturally blue-green. We rise to cross the Palomani pass at 4,800 masl. This is the highest point on the journey. We don’t pass between the massif and the spur, but rather rise to take advantage of a gentler slope high on the mountain’s side. Here we can see east over the large hand-shaped Lake Sivinacocha to the jagged, snow capped Vilcanota Mountains, which cradle this valley. We descend from the cold to camp at Chilcapinaya.
Day 5: Chilcapinaya-Pachaspata
We descend into the sunny Jampa valley, which is inhabited by shepherds and their flocks of alpaca and sheep. We lunch in the valley bottom, pass Lake Ticllacocha, then climb over a pass at 4,650 masl. Camp is at the small Lake Q´omercocha if we make it, or at Pachaspata if dusk catches us there.
Day 6: Pachaspata-Pacchanta
We drop into the valley and village of Pacchanta and bathe in their hot springs all afternoon.
Day 7: Pacchanta-Tinki-Cusco
We pass through increasingly inhabited valleys among the headwaters of the Paucartambo River on the north side of the mountain until the sun sets. We return to the road and our bus. We get back to Cusco for happy hour and a night at the discos, or a long rest, whichever you fancy.